when I say a solvent mixture in chemistry, I found several references that say both "solvents mixture" and "solvent mixture". I wonder if the word solvent is modifying as a noun or an adjective. If noun, "solvents mixture" sound more grammatical as a mixture consists of more than one types of solvent. If adjective, "solvent mixture" seems better.

However, I don't know how it is used. For example, I find many references that say both "organic solvent mixture" and "organic solvents mixture". Thank you for your help!

  • "Solvent" is a noun serving as an attributive modifier of "mixture". It is perfectly normal for attributive noun modifiers to be singular in form.
    – BillJ
    Aug 19, 2019 at 10:28
  • It's a noungitive.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 19, 2019 at 11:53
  • Have you checked to see whether dictionaries are any help here? To be fair, though ELU expects signs of reasonable research, I think that dictionaries could be confusing rather than helpful in this case. Though 'solvent' is listed as an adjective (in the chemical sense/s as well as the financial one) in some dictionaries, the principal definition is 'capable of dissolving another substance'. So a 'solvent mixture' would be 'a mixture capable of dissolving another substance'. But ... Aug 19, 2019 at 13:28
  • with the usual/logical interpretation of an 'attributive noun + head noun' phrase here, a 'solvent mixture' is 'a mixture of solvents', a much more likely usage. //// Identifying whether a particular premodifier is a noun or an adjective when both seem plausible requires various tests; which tests and which are the more important tests remains a subjective issue. I think the jury's still out on 'steel' in 'steel bridge'. – – – Let's just hope the thing stays up. Aug 19, 2019 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


Primarily, solvent in "solvent mixture" is a noun. More precisely, it is known as a noun adjunct.

an optional noun that modifies another noun; it is a noun functioning as a pre-modifier in a noun phrase. For example, in the phrase "chicken soup" the noun adjunct "chicken" modifies the noun "soup".

Btw, a noun adjunct is almost always in the singular, except where possible ambiguity requires otherwise. In the given case, a mixture necessarily contains more than one ingredient, but still we use the singular because the purpose is to indicate the nature (to modify the following noun -- "what kind of") of the thing and not the thing itself.

For more details, see "Adjectives versus Noun Adjuncts [duplicate]" and "Is this noun used as an adjective?" right here on this site.



Both are correct, I believe, it depends on what you want to emphasize - the components of the mixture or the function of the mixture.

Noun: "Solvents mixture" means that you have a mixture made of multiple solvents and you might or might not want to use the word "solvent" to describe their function. For example: mobile phases in LC are usually made of multiple solvents but you don't use the word "solvent" to describe their function, you use "eluent"

Adjective: "Solvent mixture" means that you have a mixture that functions as a solvent, and you have components that in and on themselves might or might not be individually classified as solvents. The best example I have from the top of my head is sulfochromic solution, which is a heavy-duty solvent solution for glassware cleaning.

  • 1
    You got a point there, but in the given case there's no adjective but a noun adjunct instead. Good Luck.
    – Kris
    Aug 22, 2019 at 12:39

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